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Bulls put on clinic, set record with 33-point win

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Bulls put on clinic, set record with 33-point win

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Posted 9:49 p.m. Updated 11:17 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
ATLANTA All Bulls, all the time.

At least thats how it felt Tuesday night in Phillips Arena, where the Bulls (51-19) dismantled the Hawks (40-31), 114-81, sparked by a first half in which they shot 73.8 percent from the field.

Derrick Rose (30 points, 10 assists, 6-for-8 from three-point range) and Luol Deng (27 points) served as ringleaders in the teams second consecutive blowout victory.

Bulls do something Rose has never seen before

Chicago emphasized its interior offense early, with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus preference of penetration and post-ups being followed, as both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah (eight points, seven rebounds) established themselves scoring the ball, as did Rose and Deng via the drive.

Boozer and Noah would depart the former was replaced by an energetic and productive Taj Gibson (nine points, eight rebounds, two blocked shots) - leading Rose and Deng to redouble their efforts to ensure the visitors maintained their advantage.

We came out ready to play. We had good balance. Carlos really got us going with his post-up early. Derrick very aggressive, Luol very aggressive. Great leadership from those guys, sharing the ball. Its good stuff, said Thibodeau, who joked Thats who we are when reporters asked him about the Bulls high point totals in back-to-back games, the first time the team won by 30 in consecutive outings since 1995.

We just want to be consistent with our approach, we want to be able to count on the defense, he continued. If we play the right away offensively, where we push the ball up the floor, get some easy baskets, go inside-out, share the ball and take care of the ball dont turn it over were going to be in position to win. I liked how unselfish we were. I thought the ball was hopping.

In fact, as Chicago buckled down defensively, Deng drove and finished at will and Roses blend of playmaking and scoring continued to baffle the Hawks with his former backcourt mate, Kirk Hinrich, guarding him.

Sometimes it gets hard, but to win games to win a championship it takes defense. Were just trying to stay together on defense, knowing that we cant take any steps back right now, stated Rose. I think that were moving in the right direction.

Echoed Deng: It starts with our defense. When our mindset is right on defense, we seem to work harder on offense. When were not as focused on defense, it kind of leads to our offense. Were kind of just going through the motions. It always starts with defense.

Dengs hot hand carried over to the second quarter, as he helped the Bulls second unit extend the teams advantage over their hosts. As productive as Deng was he scored 16 points before a well-deserved rest the reserves didnt miss a beat after his exit, further extending the lead with their torrid shooting from the floor.

Luol is Ive said this all year you cant say enough about what that guy does for our team and often times, it goes unnoticed, but to none of us. The way hes playing is spectacular, said Thibodeau. Our bench is playing great. Cant say enough about the bench, all of them C.J., Ronnie, Kyle, Taj was great, Omer, Kurt did a great job in limited minutes but everybody on the bench played great for us.

Every Chicago basket seemed to demoralize Atlanta who wasnt shooting poorly, but simply couldnt stop the Bulls and the gap continued to widen, as Bulls starters and reserves alike appeared to be incapable of missing a shot.

Rose and understudy C.J. Watson (eight points, six assists) had their way off the dribble as did Deng when he wasnt knocking down three-pointers, along with Kyle Korver Boozer took advantage of his bulk to abuse Hawks defenders and Gibson did the dirty work with flair.

Behind a team-wide unselfishness (16 first-half assists) leading to 73 percent shooting from the field, the Bulls, in their refusal to take their foot off the gas, took a commanding 72-43 lead into the intermission.

Perhaps the strongest indication that the Bulls had it rolling was the final play of the half. Following an Atlanta turnover with 4.3 seconds remaining, Rose took an inbounds pass full speed, stopping at the three-point line to size up Hinrich, then stepping back to bury his fourth triple (in four attempts; three in the period) of the half at the buzzer, tying him with Deng for a team-high 20 points at the break.

Im happy to be on the team thats doing it. Its better than being on the other side. Its just one of those games, said Rose of the quarter, in which the Bulls shot 81 percent from the field, missed only four shot attempts and scored 41 points.

You feel it as a player. Everything is going right, especially when youre playing defense. I think our defense really gets everything started the fast break, easy points then, weve got a lot of players on our team that when they get going, it can really take us to another level.

Thats what they were giving me. I told you, Im not going to stop shooting, no matter what, he continued, describing his individual efforts from long range. If they go under a screen or if Im open, Coach tells me to shoot the game tells me to shoot so Im putting a shot up.

Chimed in Deng: Just the way that the game went, I thought all of us did a good job with being smart, driving. We just did a good job of really moving the ball. They did a lot of switching out there and we had a good game plan for that.

Chicago didnt let up in the third quarter, as Roses individual three-point barrage persisted and the Bulls made a concerted effort to get Noahs offensive game going early in the period.

Although their ridiculous percentage dropped a tad, the Bulls lead - which surged above the 30-point mark, gradually grew. Roses penetration, Dengs versatile scoring and Noahs activity on the boards enabled the visitors to keep their substantial winning margin intact, by the count of 98-60 at the conclusion of three quarters.

The onslaught continued in the final stanza, as Chicago s bench kept pouring it on against a shamefully effortless Hawks squad. The extended garbage time rendered what was left of the Phillips Arena crowd lifeless, as they were well aware that unlike the Bulls last trip to Atlanta on March 2, there was no remarkable comeback in store.

When we came in, we knew that we were going to have to come in and play. Right when we got the lead, we were just telling each other that its not going to happen again, recounted Rose. When we get the lead, thats when we have to be tough.

Added Deng: Weve been there before. Its not the first time we had a huge lead. The main focus was to really come out in the beginning of the third quarter and just play, dont look at the score. Tonight we didnt play to our opponent. We just played Bulls basketball, just like we do in practice. Play defense, move the ball and execute.

At this time of the season Coach keeps talking about it its time to really get better. Its time for everyone to lock in, he continued.

We know the playoffs are coming up and were trying to do great things in the playoffs.

Box Score

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

NBA power rankings: Antetokounmpo and Bucks keep up 14 game win streak

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USA Today

NBA power rankings: Antetokounmpo and Bucks keep up 14 game win streak

With the NBA season hitting the quarter pole, it’s a good time to check in on how the MVP race is shaping up.

After blowing a two games to none lead against Toronto in last spring’s Eastern Conference Finals, Giannis Antetokounmpo vowed to come back better than ever this season, and he’s done exactly that, improving his averages in points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage and 3-point shooting percentage.

The one knock on Antetokounmpo had been his lack of a consistent outside shot, and while he’s still only shooting 31.6% from beyond the arc, he’s made at least three shots from long distance in three of his last seven games.

The Bucks are currently riding a 14 game winning streak after blowing out a very good Clippers’ team at Fiserv Forum last Friday. Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers even joked about the result, saying, “It was Giannis’ 25th birthday, and we searched all over the city to find a gift, and we couldn’t find one, so we gave him this one. That’s all I can come up with because we were awful.”

Antetokounmpo still has to prove he can get the Bucks to the Finals, but through the first 23 games, he’s clearly the favorite to win his 2nd straight MVP award.

LeBron James’ Lakers are actually a half game ahead of the Bucks for the NBA’s best record at the start of the new week. James leads the NBA in assists, something that hasn’t been done by a player who doesn’t play the guard position since Wilt Chamberlain. James would rank 2nd on my MVP rankings at the quarter pole.

I wrote about Luka Doncic in last week’s power rankings, and after averaging a triple double in November and leading the Mavericks to an unexpected strong start in the West, Luka would be number three, followed by NBA scoring leader James Harden and Toronto’s Pascal Siakam.

Now on to this week’s rankings. Check them out here. 

Without linear growth, the silver linings of Bulls' loss to Heat ring hollow

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USA Today

Without linear growth, the silver linings of Bulls' loss to Heat ring hollow

Trailing the Heat 108-105 with four seconds remaining in overtime, the ball found Lauri Markkanen. He was pinned in the corner and leaning away from the basket, but still, he got a clean 3-point attempt off. If the shot fell, it would have tied the game.

But it didn't. Instead, the high-arching jumper clanged off the side of the rim. And when it did, Coby White — who enjoyed, in many ways, a career performance in this game — slumped over. The response befitted the performance.

"Nobody likes to lose. We're not happy with the loss," Jim Boylen said. "I got a frustrated group of guys in there that want to win."

It's a defeat that, on its face, should be swallowable. In it, the Bulls played one of the league's best teams in the Heat down to the wire, in an arena they haven't lost in this season. 

The silver linings were abundant: The Bulls won the first quarter, an area Boylen has often emphasized. They got standout performances from Markkanen (team-high 22 points), Kris Dunn (16 points, three steals, 6-for-9 shooting) and White (11 points, eight assists, 3-for-7 from 3-point range, closed the fourth quarter and OT). They outshot one of the NBA's most prolific offenses and held Jimmy Butler to 3-for-14 shooting. Sure, he went to the free throw line 21 times, but he also didn't break the Bulls' back with clutch buckets down the stretch.

"It's real hard. But we gave them some game goals, and they accomplished them," Boylen said. "First quarter start. Be more physical. For the most part, our defensive rebounding was really good. Our transition D was really good. Our physicality was good. We moved the ball, we executed. We ran things to get open shots.

"We did a lot of really good thing and that's what I have to look at. Ultimately, you want to win. I cannot take away from the good things we do and the growth we're making. But it hurts."

Yet, something feels especially hollow about this loss. Even sour. But perhaps that's more about what came before tonight. Talk of growth doesn't resonate without assurance that said growth will continue to occur lineally, and that hasn't happened for the Bulls. Just last week, they sparked their first win streak of the season with victories over the Kings and Grizzlies. Steps forward. Then, a massive step back in falling to the 5-19 Warriors on Friday.

The tropes that pervaded the Golden State game reared their head again tonight. Zach LaVine was 1-for-6 between the fourth quarter and overtime. Loose balls found the wrong hands. Crucial defensive lapses late aided Tyler Herro nailing four 3-pointers (including the eventual game-winner) over the game's last six minutes.

"The one that [Herro] put up before the overtime, Shaq actually did a good job on [Butler] defensively and I thought [Butler] was gonna shoot the ball, so I went in there and crashed," Dunn said of the 3-pointer Herro hit to put the Heat up 97-95 with 7.1 seconds left in regulation. "[Butler] made an unselfish play, a great play out to Tyler Herro and he knocked it down... Jimmy does draw a lot of attention, he's a good player, but we have to be defensively sound. And, for me, that last play before the overtime, that was on me."

At 8-16, the Bulls simply can't afford to be happy with an 'encouraging' loss, even if they wish they could be. The balance of finding and taking the positives from this defeat while at the same reconciling that this season is escaping them is a difficult one.

"[Winning] is important, but I have to measure this — third-youngest team in the league, this young group — in other ways than that. I have to. That's what we're building, that's what we're developing," Boylen said.

"Definitely frustrated to lose, but we played well, a lot of guys played well," Dunn said. "Good thing about the NBA, games come quick... Tomorrow, we play Toronto at home so hopefully bring the same intensity and get the win there."

If that win is of the moral variety, the burning issues facing this team aren't like to dissipate soon.

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